WHEN I was a kid, we had chooks at home and somehow or other it was my job to look after them.
Looking back, it was a rewarding experience, full of surprises and some work involved in looking after these little creatures.
Living on a long narrow block had its challenges but fortunately there was enough room for the chooks and a garden, which somehow, I got to look after as well.
The yard was fenced off and a sturdy timber gate fixed to the fence.
The only shelter for the hens was a large mulberry tree and an old water tank lying on its side with a section cut out, together with a perch consisting of an old, galvanized water pipe.
The reason I bring this up as a topic today is that those of you who have some extra land for a few chooks may have to start keeping them.
Evidently eggs are going to get fewer as time goes on and with laws changing it appears that only free-range eggs will be able to be sold at your supermarket and will be a lot more expensive to buy.
Those that insist that ‘battery hens’ eggs should not be sold, due to their living conditions, should be applauded, however, as is the case with some other animals, (like pigs) they are kept this way for a few reasons as opposed to free range hens.
Inside, the hens are safe from predators, out of the elements and fed the right food, although living conditions may be quite cramped, they lay more eggs, thus keeping our prices down.
Free range are locked in sheds at night and let out during the day, however temperature variations and inclement weather can throw their body clocks out and they sometimes don’t lay as often as they should.
Often birds of prey hover around knowing there are free meals (takeaway) available.
So fewer eggs mean higher prices and sometimes there will be stock shortages.
So, the next time you go to get your dozen, it’s no ‘yoke’, you may not find any to buy.
If you have a section of land you don’t use, why not start your own food supply, not only using eggs, but a means of using your waste food that you normally throw away.
A good guide for the area required is to have at least a square metre per hen and then some, for the housing and shelter, a couple of laying boxes and a perch for night time.
Don’t skimp on the construction, build it sturdy with small wire, so small birds can’t fly in and eat the food and other vermin remain outside the enclosure.
Keep the area clean and dry, allow extra roof area for driving rain, plan which direction your storms come from.
Put lots of mulch/hay on the ground for cleanliness.
Look after your chooks and give the kids a job, a learning experience.
It won’t be all smooth sailing though, and it will cost at first.
Continue the experiment, raise your own chickens, sell your excess eggs and even your hens if you have too many.
But do make sure your council and neighbours are OK! with it.
Most of all, you will see the challenges that farmers face, only on a greater scale, and why eggs, that protein pill, can and will be expensive in the future.
There is a lot to know about keeping a few hens, so make sure you do your research.